Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature length directors commentary.
Don Cheadle selected scenes commentary. A Message For Peace: Making
ON APRIL 6, 1994, Major General Habyarimana and the President
of Burundi, were assassinated in a plane crash by members of their
own party in Rwanda.
Their deaths prompted the cold-blooded murder of almost one million
people in just 100 days in Rwanda, in what shamefully became the
fastest genocide in modern history.
The bloodshed was the culmination of years of tribal warfare
between the Hutus and the Tutsis, and was instigated by the Hutus
using propaganda from their extremist radio station, RTML, which
convinced many ordinary people that they had to massacre their
neighbours in order to preserve their own existence.
Most of the victims were killed by machete and the campaign was
so swift and all-consuming that Tutsi children were deliberately
targeted in a bid to wipe out a generation.
Perhaps even more shameful, however, was the reaction from the
rest of the world.
Despite Red Cross estimates that hundreds of thousands were being
slaughtered, the UN reduced its peace-keeping force from 2,500
to 270 soldiers, while the rest of the world looked on in silence.
Only now, ten years on, is the genocide receiving the attention
it deserved, with several politicians from around the world making
the pilgrimage to Rwanda to ask survivors for their forgiveness.
And as the world opens its eyes to the suffering which took place,
so too has the creative community with several new films set to
explore the issue.
First up is Hotel Rwanda, a heartfelt
and moving account of one of the greatest heroes to emerge from
the killing - hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina.
Paul managed to save the lives of 1,268 people, providing refuge
for countless Tutsis and Hutu sympathisers at the Hotel Mille
Collines in Kigali.
Despite being a Hutu himself, Paul's wife was a Tutsi and it
was his love for his family, first and foremost, that compelled
him to reach out a helping hand to over 1,000 peple against increasingly
The film chronicles how Paul, played with great conviction by
the ever-impressive Don Cheadle, used every bargaining tool and
bribe at his disposal in order to protect the people he loved,
no matter what the personal risk to himself.
As such, it takes a safe approach to the suffering, opting to
refrain from depicting the actual bloodshed in favour of creating
a climate of fear as seen through the eyes of Paul and his family.
So while some viewers are likely to criticise the approach for
shying away from the violent horror of those days, the film is
likely to reach a far bigger audience by focusing on the humanity
which took place, rather than the outrage.
As such, Cheadle has rightly been rewarded with an Oscar nomination
for his honest portrayal - which is sure to draw comparison with
Liam Neeson in Schindler's List - given the way he changes from
career-fixated businessman to someone who acts from the heart.
And he is ably supported by the likes of Nick Nolte, as one of
the few, helpess UN supervisors who remained, and Joaquin Phoenix,
as a US camera-man who is torn apart by his inability to prevent
the suffering and by the reaction of the rest of the world.
Director, Terry George, also deserves credit for avoiding too
many cliches or the obvious overdose of sentiment, keeping things
rooted in reality instead.
As such, his film may feel like a television movie at times,
but it's power is such that it rises above any budget constraints.
It is a glowing testament to the power of the individual to make
a difference that ought to be made essential viewing.